It's good to be a Tyson

Country club memberships, use of a company plane, a free car and other perks -- all in a day's work at Tyson Foods.

By Kim Peterson Nov 24, 2010 4:25PM
Credit: (© Kate Mathis/Getty Images)
Caption: Thanksgiving turkeyTwo Tyson turkeys are in the news this week -- and they aren't the kind of fowl you'll be eating tomorrow.

No, we're talking about Don Tyson, the former chief executive of Tyson Foods (TSN), and his son John. Don Tyson, you'll recall, was busted five years ago for taking $3 million in company perks for himself, his family and other friends.

He used $20,000 in company funds to buy oriental rugs, $18,000 for antiques and $15,000 for a London vacation. He made personal use of company-owned homes, as well as a boat, in Cabo San Lucas and the English countryside. He used $425,000 worth of time on the company jet.

The company paid some $200,000 in housekeeping and $84,000 in lawn care at five homes where he and his family vacationed. They paid for auto care (for nine cars), telephone service, Christmas gift certificates. The list goes on.

Tyson failed to disclose the perks, and used misleading terms like "travel and entertainment costs" to explain the ones he did disclose. Tyson Foods settled the matter in 2005 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, agreeing to pay a $1.5 million penalty. Tyson personally paid a $700,000 penalty. Post continues after video:
This week, the Footnoted blog brings news of a new employment contract with Tyson. Since all those perks have been taken away, Tyson Foods wanted to compensate Don Tyson for the loss.

Now, Tyson will have to settle for just 200 hours of personal time on the corporate jet. He can personally fly or he can give those hours to friends and family.

"The sacrifice that Tyson is making here is just astounding," writes Michelle Leder on Footnoted.

But while Don Tyson's perks have been chopped, his son John Tyson is getting a sweet new deal. A new contract says that John Tyson may need to spend 20 hours a month providing "advisory services" to the company. He doesn't even have to go into the office to perform those services.

And for that hard work, he gets $500,000 a year. He also gets a country club membership, a paid company care and 150 hours a year on the corporate jet. The company also pays for his $7.5 million life insurance policy.

Tyson shareholders have been fine with these kinds of perks. And maybe they should be, since their investment is doing so well. Oh, wait. Shares of Tyson have fallen 19% since April.

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